Close-up of the cover of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, with the words "bioethical inquiry" in front of a fractal (in purple).

Welcome to the JBI 1(1)

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Volume 1, Number 1 (April 2004)

Recent Developments

Recent Developments in Law

John McPhee and Cameron Stewart

Courts as Communicators: Can Doctors Learn from Judges’ Decisions? The Doctor’s Question: “Will I be all right if I … ?”

Loane Skene
The role of the courts in ‘communicating’ with those affected by their decisions is contentious. Some legal commentators maintain that courts and legislators are able to communicate decisions effectively and that attempts to ‘dumb down’ the law will not make such decisions more accessible to doctors and other professionals. Justice Michael Kirby, on the other hand, seems to share the present author’s view that judges could improve their communication of their decisions to a wider audience: ‘In future, it seems inevitable that proceedings [of the High Court] will be broadcast live.Maybe one of the judges will explain the decisions of the court in simple terms as they are handed down… Adaptation to new ways and values is part of the genius of our law, although some of its practitioners need to be dragged kicking and screaming to accomplish the changes.

Original Research

Public Consultation in Ethics: An Experiment in Representative Ethics

Michael M. Burgess
Genome Canada has funded a research project to evaluate the usefulness of different forms of ethical analysis for assessing the moral weight of public opinion in the governance of genomics. This paper will describe a role of public consultation for ethical analysis and a contribution of ethical analysis to public consultation and the governance of genomics/biotechnology. Public consultation increases the robustness of ethical analysis with a more diverse and rich accounts experiences. Consultation must be carefully and respectfully designed to generate sufficiently diverse and rich accounts of moral experiences. Since dominant groupstend to define ethical or policy issues in a manner that excludes some interests or perspectives, it is important to identify the range of interests that diverse publics hold before defining the issue and scope of a consultation. Similarly, a heavy policy focus and pressures to commercialize products risk oversimplification of the discussion and the premature foreclosure of ethical dialogue. Consequently, a significant contribution of ethical dialogue strengthened by social analysis is to consider the context and non-policy use of power to govern genomics and to sustain social debate on enduring ethical issues.

A “Parallel Process”? Beginning a Constructive Conversation About a Mäori Methodology

Fiona Cram, Hazel Phillips, Bevan Tipene-Matua, Murray Parsons, and Katrina Taupo
This paper documents the beginning of a conversation about what it means to be Mäori within a larger, mainstream research project. This larger project was conceived by a team of researchers that included a Mäori principal investigator, and funding was gained from a funding agency that has established criteria for Mäori responsiveness. The Mäori component of the project was, however, not initially conceived of as separate from the non-Mäori component. Discussions about this were initiated approximately one year into the project in response to Mäori team members’ desires to undertake Kaupapa Mäori research. This effectively means that the Mäori team colects and analyses the Mäori research data prior to re-engaging with the full research team. While there is a level of uncertainty about how this process will play itself out, there is a commitment to continue a constructive conversation within the team and to journey together in good faith and trust.

Out of the Armchair: A Bioethics Student’s Search for Practical Knowledge in Kenya

Nicole Li
This paper recounts the efforts of a Bioethics student to understand the experience of human subjects of medical research in Kenya. Although the endeavor resulted in more questions than answers, it served to highlight areas where the current system of protections has failed to secure the well-being of those involved. It concludes that, in addition to existing considerations, ethical review ought to include another kind of information: that which can be gained only from listening to the feelings and experiences related by subjects themselves.

Selling Organs and Souls: Should the State Prohibit “Demeaning” Practices?

Dominic J.C. Wilkinson
It is sometimes argued that practices such as organ-selling should be prohibited because they are demeaning to the individuals involved. In this article the plausibility of such an argument is questioned. I will examine what it means to demean or be demeaned, and suggest that the mere fact that an individual is demeaning themself does not provide sufficient justification for legal prohibition. On the contrary, such laws might be argued to be demeaning.

The West’s Dismissal of the Khabarovsk Trial as “Communist Propaganda”: Ideology, Evidence, and International Bioethics

Jing-Bao Nie
In late 1949 the former Soviet Union conducted an open trial of eight Japanese physicians and researchers and four other military servicemen in Khabarovsk, a city in eastern Siberia. Despite its strong ideological tone and many obvious shortcomings such as the lack of international participation, the trial established beyond reasonable doubt that the Japanese army had prepared and deployed bacteriological weapons and that Japanese researchers had conducted cruel experiments on living human beings. However, the trial, together with the evidence presented to the court and its major findings—which have proved remarkably accurate—was dismissed as communist propaganda and totally ignored in the West until the 1980s. This paper reviews the 1949 Khabarovsk trial, examines the West’s dismissal of the proceedings as mere propaganda and draws some moral lessons for bioethics today. As an important historical case, set in the unique socio-political context of the Cold War, the West’s dismissal of the trial powerfully illustrates some perennial ethical issues such as the ambivalence of evidence and the power of ideology in making (or failing to make) cross-national and cross-cultural factual and moral judgments.


Challenging Science: Issues for New Zealand Society in the 21st Century

Peter J. Wilson

Case Studies

In That Case: Call for Responses

Ian Kerridge and Nicole Gilroy